|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.52(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.57(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We are living in unprecedented days in the history of the church! The Lord is moving in powerful ways, building His church and expanding His kingdom. Revival is impacting many cities and nations. Leaders are praying with anticipation that they might cross the threshold into genuine revival, leading to transformation of cities in the United States and the Western world. This is not a "trend" or the latest ministry strategy. We are beginning to see tangible evidence of God’s intention to fulfill His promise in Scripture to restore and rebuild cities that are desolate.
By His own design, God has ordained seasons of revival throughout history to restore His church to simplicity, power, and effectiveness. God intends that His glory be manifested "in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever!" (Eph. 3:21 NIV). His will could not be more explicit. He desires that His glory be manifested in the church in every generation and in every culture. The world will see the glory of God only when Jesus Christ is clearly seen in the church-and through the church to the world (as Jesus prays in John 17).
Scripture promises that a mighty outpouring of God’s glory is coming (Joel 2) that will include signs and wonders, a harvest of souls, and the Gospel being preached to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14). We have a responsibility as the people of God to cry out for His presence to fill our communities toward that end. The church is not meant to be a spectator on the sidelines; God is inviting us into full partnership with this end-of-the-age drama.
Are we ready for what God has in mind? Is the church prepared to walk out the reality of the promises God has made in His Word? Many would suggest that, although we are at a critical threshold of history, the church is not up to the challenge and unprecedented opportunity that is before us. The current condition of the church suggests that we have replaced the purity and simplicity of the gospel with sophisticated, entertaining activities that have left people inside and outside the community of faith questioning the reality of Jesus Christ and His life-changing power. Both leaders and laypeople in the Western church are questioning foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, leaning more and more toward humanistic ideologies in contrast to the moral and spiritual absolutes of Scripture and a biblical worldview.
A recent survey conducted by noted researcher George Barna reported that the large majority of Americans now contend that there is no absolute moral truth. More than two out of three adults, Christian and non-Christian alike, argue that truth is relative to the individual and circumstances. Moral and ideological relativism, which has characterized Western universities for many decades, is now prevalent everywhere in our culture. Most alarming is the way this relativism is being embraced by much of the church, resulting in a new level of tolerance and comfort with sin, even when it blatantly contradicts the clear teaching of God’s Word. The Western worldview has replaced the biblical worldview, and relativism now functions in partnership with the appearance of Christian "faith." As the faith of believers has become diluted, so the influence and relevance of the church has diminished in society. This disconnect of the church ultimately derives from a decline in knowing God; the lack of an intimate relationship with Jesus by believers has resulted in a loss of true identity, lack of spiritual authority, and a lack of awareness of the church’s transforming purpose.
In response, the church as a whole seems determined to find the answer within herself, giving rise to endless agendas to solve the identified problems. We have been recycling religious programs and activities, hoping that somehow they will become effective the "next time." Desperate to appear "unique" in order to attract members, we have wandered further and further from the simple and powerful gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result, much of our religious activity has served as a numbing agent for believers rather than producing disciples for the kingdom. At this writing, there are ten million born-again believers who are unchurched. Even believers are becoming bored and disillusioned!
The Western church is struggling with her identity, authority, and purpose. Understanding our true identity in Christ must occur before we can exercise spiritual authority and accomplish our God-given mission as an agent of change on the earth. We need a serious lifestyle change in the body of Christ, from a Westernized culture of Christianity to becoming radical disciples of Jesus. If we are conformed to His image, we can become the "fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Cor. 2:15).
In a declining culture, the church cannot fully recover the presence of God in her midst apart from the catalyst of a true revival from heaven. We are living in an important hour of history! God is challenging the church’s self-centered identity and shifting our mindsets and ineffective methodologies. He is inviting us to respond to one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced-to return to our first love and to step out of our compromised church culture into His kingdom!
In order to fulfill the purposes of God for our cities, we must hear what the Spirit is saying to the church and be obedient to His voice. Isaiah prophesied: "Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations" (Isa. 62:10 NIV). The Lord is issuing an invitation to His church to pass through a threshold into the reality of His kingdom. He is opening three "gates" or doorways before us.
The first door is the Door of Intimacy. Scripture contains two pictures of this door. The first is found in the Song of Solomon: "I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, ‘Open for me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one’" (5:2). A second picture is found in the book of Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). Jesus is knocking at the door of His church, longing for fellowship and intimacy with His beloved. This door must be opened before the church can become like Jesus. We can only become what we are beholding in prayer and intimate fellowship. By fixing our gaze on Him, we can be transformed into His image, from glory to glory.
The second door is a Door of Hope. In Hosea we see the response of God to His wandering bride: "Behold, I will allure her, [I] will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt" (Hos. 2:14–15). The Lord is opening this door to invite His people out of their captivity and compromise and into their true destiny. It’s a door that leads us out of the Valley of Trouble and into renewed covenant with God. This door will lead the church from her compromise into betrothal and fruitfulness.
Finally, the last door being opened is the Door of Heaven. In the book of Revelation, John writes, "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this’" (Rev. 4:1). The Lord, who invited John to come up higher for the heavenly perspective, is also inviting His church, His beloved, to "come up higher" and sit with Him around His throne. The invitation lifts us out of our compromised state and into the revelation of heaven’s perspective. With heaven’s perspective, we gain revelation regarding our identity and destiny in God. This door will help the church realize her transforming purpose.
These "doors" represent an invitation from Jesus to pass through them to new places of intimacy, freedom, and destiny. God is giving us keys that will unlock these doors, both in our personal lives and collectively for the sake of our cities. As we accept His invitation and pass through each door Jesus will lead us into our true identity as His bride and into our transforming purpose!
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
DESPERATE FOR HIS PRESENCE
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My
soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"
Psalm 42:1–2 NIV
"AMEN!" the pastor declares as the morning worship service concludes and the worship leader finishes playing the final song. It was a good service. There were a variety of interesting activities, including a drama presentation, an update on a missionary family serving overseas, the children’s special song, and a report on the upcoming fund-raiser for the new youth center.
You watch people chat as they make their way to the door. Then you notice a woman who doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave-isn’t that the young mother who was recently divorced? Then you look a little more closely at the people leaving: the teenager with a blank, empty look on his face; the well-dressed man who is bravely facing a recent diagnosis of inoperable cancer; an elderly woman with kind but sad eyes. You wonder about deeper issues that are hidden-addictions, emotional bondages, fear of the future, loneliness, families torn by conflict. But these are the burdens you don’t see when people carry them into the service and back out with them. Something tugs at your heart.
What’s wrong? you think to yourself. This was a normal service, nothing unusual; the worship was uplifting, the sermon encouraging. There was the prayer time when you felt a moment of peace. You hope that somehow the peace will last a bit further into the week, at least past your Monday morning meeting. Reality begins to sink in, and your thoughts race ahead to the coming week.
You take one more look at the people leaving the sanctuary. Something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You feel a longing in your heart for something more. You wonder if there is something missing, or maybe Someone ...
The Silent Cry for "One Thing"
A widespread cry is growing in the hearts of believers for a real, tangible encounter with God. They want, like Moses, to see Him face-to-face. They don’t want only to read about Him, talk about Him, and pay homage to Him on Sunday mornings. This strong undercurrent in our nation manifests itself as a holy dissatisfaction with the status quo of the institutional church. Many people who have attended church faithfully for years are now wandering around disconnected from any collective expression of the body of Christ. As mentioned in the Introduction, researcher George Barna estimates that more than ten million born-again believers in the United States are now considered "unchurched." People have become disillusioned and jaded; many are unwilling to return to the local church in its current condition.
What are people longing for? I believe it’s the presence of God in the midst of His people, the manifestation of His nearness, and an awareness of His love that is both real and relevant. We desperately need the tangible presence of Jesus both in the church and in our communities!
How do we gauge whether or not His presence is among us? Do we simply assume He is present? This is a fair question. How do we know? Should we even ask the question? I’m not referring to the omnipresence of God but to His manifest presence. Do we believe Jesus is present simply because we wish Him to be there? Or is there discernible evidence when He is present and when He is absent?
God is looking for people with a heart like David, who declared, "One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple" (Ps. 27:4, emphasis added).
People who are desperate for God’s presence move beyond convenience and personal comfort. They have gotten hold of something in their spirit, and they cannot let go. For them, Jesus is not a religious concept-He is reality. The very fact that Jesus came to live among us is a clear example of His desire to be with us in a way that we can both understand and pursue.
Table of Contents
|Introduction: The Invitation||13|
|Door of Intimacy|
|Chapter 1||Desperate for His Presence||19|
|Chapter 2||The Glory of His Presence||30|
|Chapter 3||The Love of Our King||41|
|Chapter 4||The Church in the City||50|
|Door of Hope|
|Chapter 5||God: Present or Absent?||63|
|Chapter 6||A Disoriented Church||80|
|Chapter 7||Evidence of Captivity||89|
|Chapter 8||Invitation to the Wilderness||103|
|Chapter 9||Returning to Covenant||113|
|Door of Heaven|
|Chapter 10||Restoration of the Priesthood||131|
|Chapter 11||Building the House of the Lord||146|
|Chapter 12||Transforming Vision||159|
|Chapter 13||Restoration of God's Presence||174|
|Chapter 14||Desperation: The Key to Transformation||190|